Unconventional wisdom for PPC campaigns

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Unconventional wisdom for PPC campaigns
Unconventional wisdom for PPC campaigns

When I attend conferences and chat with peers, there's consensus regarding best techniques for pay-per-click (PPC) campaign management. After all, if conventional wisdom is most sound, why not repeat it?  Instead, I have four unorthodox concepts to share.

First, unless you're buying 100% of Google's inventory for your particular set of keywords, don't bother listing your terms at another engine. Think about it: If you can access a broader market through Google, why engage another search engine — and suffer the costs and workload of managing different systems, lists of keywords and different sets of measurements. As you expand beyond Google, it makes sense to engage additional search engines according to their relative size — for the same reason.

Second, be certain to pursue general keywords for your SEO plans vehemently, and use them appropriately for your pay-per-click campaigns. PPC resources should be spent on developing “long-tail” keywords up front. Including some “short-tail” keywords in your campaigns helps identify long-tail terms people are searching for. Ultimately, this helps lower your cost as you shift budget from generic terms to the long-tail variants you find. For each keyword you identify, you'll lower your marginal cost of customer acquisition — permanently. Most clients want to create a short list of keywords and then let their budgets run, generating immediate sales and shiny quarterly numbers. And let's face it: The idea of paying a firm to research 10,000 keywords is less exciting than showing sales with just 10 — particularly in this economy. The truth is, each long-tail keyword added to the list is an asset that pays small, but steady, dividends — and that's an asset base worth building.

Third, rewrite your copy and test it. While most pay-per-click ads are far from prosaic, it's also true that almost all could be improved. Simply recognizing this opportunity puts you miles ahead of the competition. Relentlessly test and retest your ads.

My most important comment about pay per click isn't about PPC at all. We tend to judge the efficacy of search ads with shorthand statistics such as, “cost per conversion” or “cost per action.” These terms are astonishingly misleading. While search ads can identify and drive targeted traffic, it's your Web site that does the heavy lifting of conversion.

When you can't think of any other ways to further improve the performance of your search campaigns, look to improving your Web site. Better yet, balance these efforts from the start. It's often helpful to engage with search marketing firms who have solid information architecture and usability design skills. For conversion challenges that are especially tough to crack, a usability or eye-tracking study can't be beat.

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